The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has sent a “final address” to the National Judicial Council (NJC) over allegations of “financial impropriety, infidelity to the constitution and other economic and financial crimes related laws” against Walter Onnoghen, the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The NJC will sit on Wednesday to determine the fate of the CJN who has been on suspension following allegations levelled against him over his asset declaration.
In the final address prepared by Ekele Iheanacho and Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa, counsel to EFCC, and obtained by NigerianEye, the commission the NJC should declare that Onnoghen has breached various laws.
Some of the key allegations against Onnoghen, as listed by the EFCC, are:
Breach of the constitution by failing to declare his assets from 1989, when he was appointed a judicial officer, to 2016, when he became the CJN
Being in possession of funds which are fairly not attributable to his known, proveable and legitimate source of income
Deposits of up to $1,716,000.00 in his domiciliary account whose sources he cannot account for
‘pecuniary’ gifts paid into his account by lawyers.
If the NJC upholds the allegations, Onnoghen could be removed as CJN and asked to face criminal trial.
This is different from the asset declaration case currently before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
FULL TEXT OF EFCC’S FINAL ADDRESS TO THE NJC AS OBTAINED BY NIGERIANEYE
IN THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL HOLDEN AT ABUJA
BETWEEN: THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION AND JUSTICE WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN GCON.
THE PETITIONER’S FINAL ADDRESS IN RESPECT OF PETITION ON FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION AND OTHER ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES RELATED LAWS AGAINST HON. JUSTICE WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN GCON.
My lords, by petition dated the 4th day of February, 2019 signed by the Ag. Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (hereinafter called, petitioner) to the Chairman, National Judicial Council, allegations of FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION AND OTHER ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES RELATED LAWS were leveled against the Respondent. See exhibit P10.
Furthermore, my lords, by another letter dated the 5th day of March,2019, the Petitioner forwarded additional facts and findings to the Chairman of the Council which letter was referred to this Honourable Committee for necessary action. The petitioner adopted this additional facts and finding before this Committee and was admitted and marked exhibit P10A.
My lords, at the hearing of this petition, the petitioner called 7 witnesses and tendered documentary evidence which were admitted and marked as shown in the table below:
|S/N||PARTICULARS OF THE EXHIBIT||EXHIBIT NUMBER|
|1||RESPONDENT’S ACCOUNT HERITAGE BANKC||P1|
|2||LETTER FROM HERITAGE BANK DATED 24/10/16 FORWARDING THE STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT OF THE RESPONDENT TO EFCC||P2|
|3||RESPONDENTS UNION BANK SALARY ACCOUNT||P3|
|4||RESPONDENT’S STANDARD CHARTERED BANK STATEMENTS OF ACCOUNT –||P4-P4E|
|5||UBA STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT OF NGOZI LAURA||P5|
|6||INTERNAL MEMO FROM PROTOCOL UNIT SUPREME COURT TO THE CHEIF REGISTRAR DATED 11 Oct. 2018||P6|
|7||CIRCULAR TO ALL HEADS COURT DATED 28 MAY 2007||P7|
|8||LETTER FROM THE SUPREME COURT DATED 19 FEBRUARY, 2019 TO EFCC WITH ATTACHED REGISTERED OF CASH SIGNED FOR AND RECEIVED BY THE RESPONDENT||P8|
|9||FEDERAL TREASURY (CIRCULAR ON E-PAYMENT) DATED 22 OCTOBER, 2008||P9|
|10||PETITION DATED 4 FEBRUARY,2019||P10|
|11||EFCC LETTTER DATED 5 MARCH,2019FORWARDING ADDITIONAL FACTS TO NJC LETTER||P10A|
|12||RESPONDENT’S STATEMENT TO CCB||P11|
|13||RESPONDENT’S ASSET DECLARATION FORMS||P12|
|14||SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT (CHIEF I. OHAKIM& ANOR V CHIEF MARTIN AGBASO& ANOR) (2010) NWLR (PT1226) 172 S.C, Suit No. SC3/2010||P13|
|15||STATEMENT OF JAMES ONOJA, SAN TO EFCC DATED 11 AND 12 MARCH 2019||P14 & P 15|
|16||STATEMENT OF IKPEAZU ONYEACHI, SAN TO EFCC DATED 4 MARCH 2019||P16|
|17||Statement of Paul Usoro, SAN to EFCC Dated 4 March, 2019||P17|
|18||Statement of Emeka Etiaba, SAN to EFCC Dated 4 March, 2019||P18|
|19||Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 6 Feb. 2019||P19|
|20||Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 7 Feb. 2019||P20|
|21||Statement of Joe Agi, SAN to EFCC Dated 1 March 2019||P21|
|S/N||PARTICULARS OF THE EVIDENCE||EXHIBIT NUMBER|
|1||Financial Regulations of the FRN p.80-81, Rule 1411, 1412 (II)&(III) Dated January 2009||R1|
|2||Foreign Currency (Domiciliary Accounts) Act Cap 151, LFN 1985||R2|
|3||Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Decree N0. 17, 1995||R3|
|4||Judgment of the FCT High Court in Suit No. FCT/HC/CR/21/2016 delivered 2017||R4|
|5||Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/A/371c/2017 delivered 2018||R5|
|6||Respondent’s response to the first petition dated 4February,2019||R6|
|7||Respondent’s response to EFCC’S Petition dated 19February,2019||R7|
|8||Respondent’s response to EFCC’S ADDITIONAL FACT||R8|
|9||Wedding Invitation for the Respondent’s Daughter||R9|
|10||PURPORTED PRINT OUT FROM THE EFCC WEBSITE||R10|
ISSUE FOR DETERMINATION
We respectively submit that the sole issue for the determination of this Honourable Committee is whether in view of the evidence adduced by the Petitioner, it can be said that the Respondent has not breached the Code of conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
ARGUMENT ON THE ISSUE
My lords, it is our humble submission that from the evidence on record, it cannot be said that the Respondent has not breached the Code of Conducts for Judicial Officers. My lords by virtue of his appointment as a Judicial Officer, the Respondent has a duty to actively participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing and observing a high standard of conduct that will ensure and preserve transparently the integrity of the Judiciary. The Respondent is also duty bond, in the performance of his duties to adhere and observe strictly the rules set out in the Code of conduct for Judicial Officer and failure to do so automatically constitutes misconduct. We humbly refer my lords to the Preamble to the Code of Conduct for Judicial
It is must be stated that the Code of Conduct for the Judicial Officers serves as the minimum standard of conduct to be observed by each and every judicial Officers. My lords, this explains why the preamble to the code provides: “therefore, this code of conduct for Judicial Offices of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is hereby adopted to serve as the minimum standard of conduct to be observed by each and every Judicial officer as defined in this code”
ALLEGATION OF INFIDELITY TO THE CONSTITUTION OTHER LAWS PROHIBITING ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL RELATED OFFENCES
My lords, Rules 3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers states “A Judicial Officer should be true and faithful to the Constitution and the Law, uphold the course of justice by abiding with the provisions of the Constitution and the Law and should acquire and maintain Professional competence”
Also my lords, Rule 1 (1.3) of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers imposed an obligation on the Respondent to Respect and comply with the laws of the land and should conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.
My lords, the take home points from the aforementioned provisions is that his Lordship is bound as a judicial officer to respect, comply with and abide the provisions of the Constitution and the various applicable laws in Nigeria.
My lords, by the provisions of section 11 (1) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officer, contained in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Respondent is bound to immediately and upon assuming office as a Judicial officer submit before the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years.
It is our humble submission that from the evidence on record before this Honourable Panel it is very clear that the Respondent failed to declare his asset in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
Upon his appointment as a judicial Officer in 1989 as justice of the High Court of Cross Rivers State, the Respondent is bound to declare his asset. There is no evidence before this Honourable Panel that the Respondent ever declared his asset until 2016 when he filled annexure E and F of exhibits R 6 and R7. My lords, in exhibit R7, the Respondent admitted that he failed to comply with the Constitutional provisions requiring him to declare asset on the ground that he forgot due to pressure of work. My lords, even in the conventional court where rules of evidence is applicable every admitted facts need no further prove. See Agbakoba v. SSS (1994) 8 NWLR (Pt.351) p. 475 and the case of Gov. of Akwa-Ibom State v. John Amah (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.767) 730 at 778.
In view of this clear admission, the Petitioner is under no further obligation to prove that the Respondent failed to declare his asset in line with the provision of the Constitution.
In this case, the Respondent admitted the breach of the Constitutional provision. It is therefore our humble submission that his Lordship has violated Rules 1 (1.2) and Rule 3(3.1) of the code of Conducts for Judicial Officer which imposed the obligation on the Respondent to respect and comply with the laws of the land and to be faithful to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
APPEARANCE OF FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY AND FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY
My lords, from the evidence on record it is clear that the Respondent failed to declare all the accounts and funds in exhibit P4-P4D when he declared his 2014 asset in November,2016. Your lordship will observe that the Respondent only declared his Salary account with the Union Bank exhibit P3 and failed to declare P4-P4D which are the accounts that warehoused funds that are far above the Respondent’s known and provable lawful income.
My lords, by the provisions of Rule 1.2 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers it is clear that because members of the public expects a high standard of conduct from a judge, the Respondent is under the obligation to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities both in his professional and private life. It is our submission my lords, that any conduct of the Respondent that give rise to the appearance of impropriety is a judicial misconduct and same is punishable under the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
It is our humble submission that the petitioner proved before this Honourable Panel that the Respondent was in possession of funds which are fairly not attributable to his known, proveable and legitimate source of income. The evidence shows that my lord earned a monthly salary in the sum of N750, 819.87 which is about N9, 000,000.00 per annum. My lords, as shown in exhibit P10A page 14 paragraph XXVI the Respondent only earned the sum of N91,962,362.49 as salary between September,2005 and October,2016. It is also on record that the exhibit P3 is the salary account of my lord wherein his salaries are paid.
My lords, the evidence before this Honourable Committee shows clearly that the Respondent opened United State Dollars account with the Standard Chartered Bank in 2009, exhibit P4 C. This USD account was opened by Mr. Joe Agi SAN and the first cash depositor of United State of America Dollars into the said account. We humbly refer my lords to the entry of the 29th day of June,2009. Though the Respondent claimed that he was the one who gave the learned SAN, Joe Agi the $30,000.00 to deposit to exhibit P4C, the Respondent could not give any reasonable explanation as to source of this money. My lords, the Respondent admitted under cross examination that the USD was not his salary and that he only received dollars as estacodes which is meant to for his official trips.
My lords, upon the opening of the USD account exhibit P4C, a lot of cash deposits in Dollars were made to this account. The evidence before my lords is that between 2009 and 2016 a lot of cash deposits were made into exhibit P4C as show in the table below:
|2||PAUL USORO (SAN)||N350,000||22/4/15|
|3||EMEKA ETIABA (SAN)||N250,000||19/5/15|
|4||ONYENCHI IKPEAZU (SAN)||N300,000||19/5/15|
|5||EZE DURU IHEOMA SAN||N100,000||6/03/15|
It appears that the purpose the cash received or accepted in excess of the prescribed threshold statutorily fixed by Section 1 MLPA 2004, or Section 1 MLPA, 2011 is immaterial. Let it not be forgotten that an agreement to do a lawful act unlawfully is also criminal offence. This point caught the attention of the lower Court and at page 2410 of the record it stated the law thus: (It) does appear to me that the Court below missed the finer point that, the purpose of Section 1 of MLPA, 2004, before its repeal, and (Section 1 of MLPA) 2011respectively is in my view and I so hold, to clearly and strictly bar the payments and or acceptance of cash payments above the set threshold irrespective of the purpose and authorization for the payments. Every payment above the threshold amount stated in Section 1, with the coming into effect of MLPA 2004, before its repeal, and MLPA, 2011must be made through a financial institution to be excluded from the operation of the MLPA. See NYAME v. FRN (2010) 7 NWLR (pt. 1193) 344 at p. 399.
The purpose of paying the money and accepting the money/cash in excess of the prescribed threshold may beÂ lawful in the defendant’s wishful thinking. However, in the penal statute; the payment and or acceptance of cash in excess of the prescribed threshold is illegal or unlawful, if not done through a financial institution. The purpose for either the payment or receipt of cash in excess of the prescribed threshold is not a mens rea defence under the MLPA, 2004 or MLPA, 2011. Ours, as the judex, is to interpret the law and declare what it is. In interpreting a statute, the object is to discover the intention of the legislature and bring it out. The intention of the statute is usually deduced from the language used in the statute. We cannot therefore go outside the words in the language of the statute. Therefore, as this Court held in MALLAM ABUBAKAR ABUBAKAR & ORS v. SAIDU USMAN NASAMU & ORS (2012) LPELR – 7826 (SC) – where the words used are clear and unambiguous they must be given their ordinary plain meaning, so as to avoid reading into the provisions meanings not intended by the lawmakers. See also ISHOLA v. AJIBOYE (1995) 1 NWLR (pt. 352) 506; P. D. P. v. C. P. C & ORS (2011) LPELR- 2909(SC). Accordingly, in its interpretative jurisdiction the Court does not, and must notÂ interprete a statute by placing a gloss on the provisions by reading into the provisions words neither used, contemplated nor included therein. Thus, as I stated elsewhere in OBI v. OJUKWU & ANOR (2009) LPELR 8511 (CA), when the words of a statute are plain and unambiguous; the plain duty of the Court interpreting the statute, is to bring out its overriding objective. The Court does not have inherent powers to say that the provisions, which are quite plain, mean what do not actually mean nor that the plain meaning should be ignored. The statute must be construed to mean what it means or to mean what it is intended to mean and not to mean what it clearly means. See VINOS v. MARKS & SPENCER (2001) 3 ALL E.R 784. Fortunately, the Courts, in their respective jurisdiction, have not yet imbibed the craft or art of “Double Speak”, predicted in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four; Where the Big Brother’s Yes Means No, and His No means Yes.
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